Page images
PDF
EPUB

MAKCH OF FASHION. 19

is very probable that this may have been the case, as the people would, in heathen days, very naturally retain some tradition of reverence for the trilithon, as the peasants of Brittany, and, I may say, of Britain, do for similar erections to the present day, assembling for annual festivals at "the stones," though the origin of Carnac, Stonehenge, and Stennis, is as unknown as that of Haamonga.

Returning to the village we saw that the church was crowded, and that there were a number of candidates for confirmation. Judging that the service would occupy some time, and being anxious to see as much of the neighbourhood as possible, we drove along the coast to a particularly fine banyan, noted in Captain Cook's chart, and beneath its shadow we rested awhile, and enjoyed a very pleasant half-hour overlooking a calm, beautiful sea.

We reached Mua just as the congregation was dispersing, and were troubled with some qualms on the score of our bad example, but the considerate bishop gave us full absolution. I regret to say that a considerable proportion of the people were like hideouslydressed-up apes, masculine and feminine—many of the former in seedy black clothes, and some of the latter attired in gay flimsy silk gowns, inflated with large crinolines, and with baby hats, trimmed with pink and blue flowers, stuck on the top of their fuzzy heads. Hitherto, as you know, my ideas of Tongans have been derived only from the stately men and women who have settled in Fiji, and there, like their neighbours, have retained the graceful drapery of native cloth. Here the influence of certain persons interested in trade is so strong, that the manufacture of tuppa is discouraged by every possible means; and a heavy penalty attaches to making it on any, except one, day in the week. It seems that this law was passed in King George's absence, and I am happy to learn that he was exceedingly angry—though, as yet, tho law stands unrepealed, and the manufacture is doomed to cease altogether this year.

Whoever is to blame, the system of taxation and fines is something astounding. A woman who is found without a pinafore, even in her own house, is fined two dollars, no matter how ample is her petticoat. Should she venture beyond her threshold minus this garment, she is liable to a fine of three dollars. If caught smoking, she is fined two and a half dollars, and one and a half dollar costs. Imagine such legislation for a people whose highest proof of reverence in olden days was to strip themselves to the waist in presence of their king, or on approaching a sacred spot, and who still consider any upper garment as altogether superfluous —a people, moreover, whose very nature it is to be for ever rolling up minute cigarettes for themselves and their friends!

The most atrocious of all the regulations is one inflicting a fine of ten dollars on any man found without a shirt, though wearing such a sulu (kilt) as would in Fiji be considered full dress, either at church or Government House. One of the lads told us he had actually been made to pay this fine a few days ago, having put off his shirt while fishing. Wet or dry they must wear the unaccustomed foreign clothing, instead of the former coating of oil, which made these people as impervious to water as so many ducks. But whether by compulsion or for vainglory, the hideous foreign clothes are worn during the burning heat of the day; then, under the friendly veil of night, comfort and economy are consulted by dispensing with superfluous garments; and so the heavy night-dews act with double power, and chills produce violent coughs, which too often end in consumption and death.1

1 I am happy to say that the king's good sense carried the day, aud enabled the wishes of the people to find an independent voice. In July 1879, King George formally opened a Tongan Parliament, at which, for the first time, representatives of the people were present, under the new constitution, to discuss all questions relating to their own wellbeing. Ere the close of the session, in the middle of September, the law prohibiting the manufacture and wearing of native cloth, and rendering certain articles of clothing compulsory, was abolished. Men and women are now permitted to wear any clothes they please, in doors or out, provided, of course, that they are decently clad according to South Sea interpretation of the word. The only exception to this happy rule of liberty is the interior of the Wesleyan Church at Nukualofa, where it is still necessary for men to appear in full European dress—coat, trousers, shoes, &c.—and for women to wear bonnets and dresses! Those who cannot, or will not, comply with this regulation, must stay outside the sanctuary.

The prohibition against women smoking was also modified. Doubtless the revenue will suffer from the diminution of fines, but that can scarcely be a matter of much regret. Various other wise measures were passed, showing that the TonPAPUAN PHYSIQUE. 21

These people, like most kindred races when brought in contact with civilisation, are fast dying out . I believe there are now only about 9000 in the Tongan group, 5000 on Happai, and 5000 in Vavau district. They certainly are a very fine well-built race, with clear yellowish-brown skin and Spanish colouring; they also resemble Spaniards or Italians in their animation of expression,— the muscles of the forehead working in a most remarkable manner, especially to express wonder or interest. They have fino faces, well-developed forehead, strong chin, and features generally like those of an average good-looking European. Not the slightest approach to the "blubber lips and monkey faces " of negro races, or of the isles lying nearer to the equator. On the contrary, the mouth is well formed, and shows beautiful teeth. The eyes are invariably dark brown, generally large and clear. The beard, moustaches, and eyebrows are allowed to retain their natural glossy black; but, as in Fiji, the hair is dyed of a light sienna by frequent washing in coral-lime, and encircles the head with a yellow halo, strangely in contrast with the dark eyes and eyebrows. Like that of the Papuan, rather than the pure Polynesian races, it takes the form of a mop of innumerable very fine spiral curls, of which each individual hair twists itself into a tight corkscrew. It is crisp and glossy, and very elastic; and if you draw it out full length, it at once springs back to its natural form. Some of the women now allow their hair to grow quite long. Both men and women march along with a proud overbearing gait that always gives one an impression that they look on all other races with something of contempt .

gans have awakened to understand the folly of attempting to introduce the manners and customs of foreign countries, without reference to the requirements and necessities of their own people. Consequently several excellent Tongan customs relative to tenure of lands, tribes, and status of the people, are now legalised; and the representatives have shown their strong and sensible desire to retain all that was good in their national code of laws, but which had been put away, together with things evil, at the suggestion of resident foreigners.

That the latter were so effectually prevented from unduly influencing the young Parliament, was doubtless due to the presence of H.B.M. Deputy-Commissioner for Tonga, A. P. Maudslay, and of Mr Wilkinson, both of whom have been engaged in the establishment of the new Government in Fiji, and well know the wisdom of ruling a semi-civilised race by retaining, so far as is possible, their own ancient feudal customs.

Our morning's work had given us such keen appetites that wo did more than justice to the breakfast which awaited us at the Fathers' house, though it must be confessed that the fare was of the coarsest; it was, however, the very best they had to offer, and was evidently considered quite a feast. My comrades congratulated one another that such viands did not often fall to their lot!

Immediately after breakfast we started on our return journey with a high tide. Wind and current being in our favour, we flew down the river-like passage through the wide coral-reef, which we had ascended with such toil, and less than two hours brought U3 back to the good ship, and to cordial greeting from her genial captain. He had invited King George of Tonga and his grandson to dine on board, to meet the bishop and the Fathers, and I was invited to join the party. The king, who ought properly to be called Tupou or Toubo, which is the surname of all the royal family, was received with a salute of twenty-one guns—the ship dressed and yards manned, with sailors shouting "Vive la Kepublique!" (an institution to which, I fancy, that most men on board are profoundly indifferent — in fact several are declared royalists, and faithful adherents of Henri V.)

The Tongans were duly conducted all over the ship, and examined machinery, guns, men's quarters, and every detail, with apparent interest. A long dinner followed, from which I escaped as soon as I conveniently could.

The king is a very fine old man, in height about 6 feet 2 inches. Ho was dressed in a general's full uniform, and his grandson in that of an aide-de-camp—cocked-hat, &c. I confess I think that Thakombau and Maafu, in their drapery of Fijian tappa, are far more imposing figures. The king's son, Unga, is at present seriously ill. His three sons govern the three groups into which this island-kingdom of Tonga divides itself—namely, Tongatabu, Happai, and Vavau There are only about sixty isles in all, and their area is about 600 square miles; so this is a small matter compared with tho 7000 square miles of Fiji. I am told that here the land all belongs to the king, so that any one wishing to settle can only do so as a tenant, leasing land from his Majesty.

NIGHT CHILLS AND DEWS. 23

The feast being over, le Roi kanaque departed amid blue and green lights, one of which was reserved for us—i.e., the ecclesiastical party—returning to the priest's house and to the convent, where the pleasant Sisters awaited me with kindest welcome; and we all sat on the mats in my cell and chatted for a while.

Xow I am so very cold that I must go to bed. I think this climate must be far more trying than that of Fiji. The heat in the daytime feels to me greater, and every night is bitterly cold, necessitating piles of rugs and blankets; while the dew is so drenching that the roofs always drip as if there had been heavy rain. I do not wonder at the delicate little Sceur Marie having fallen into consumption. It carries off many strong natives.

Tuesday Night.

Wasn't it just cold when I left off writing! I lay awake shivering for two hours, though wrapped up in blanket, cloak, and big tartan plaid. I find that the island of Tongatabu is known all over the group as the cold isle, and I am ready to endorse the title.

I devoted this forenoon to a sketch of this hospitable cottageconvent, and in the afternoon went alone to see Mrs Baker, who took me to visit the queen—a fine old lady, but very helpless, having dislocated her hip by a fall eight years ago. She was sitting on the bare boards in a wretched little room of a small house close to the large villa or palace in which King George receives his guests, but in which he never lives, preferring that his home should be faka Tongai.e., adhering to native customs so far as is consistent with keeping up appearances. But here, again, we were struck by the uncomfortable substitution of a hard wooden floor for the soft mats of a truly native home. As civilised houses are glazed, the poor old queen, though much oppressed with heat, sat beside a glass window, shaded by a filthy tattered rag which had once been a curtain, but which in its palmiest days had been immeasurably inferior to a handsome drapery of native cloth: indeed the only symptom of comfort in the place was a curtain of Fijian tappet.

« PreviousContinue »